Archive for May 2010

Dealing with Bullies (in Hockey or Elsewhere)

May 24, 2010

I just received the following alert from my friend at Peak Performance, Dr Pattrick Cohn.  And, while Dr Cohn primarily deals with athletes — from all sports, I’m going to suggest here and now (as a dad and as a grandfather) that ALL kids experience bullying at some point in their lives…

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After months of research, he’s just now releasing his new program entitled, “Helping Young Athletes Stay Confident and Mentally Tough in the Face of Bullies”.

As Dr Cohn warns, even if you think your kids are NOT the targets of bullies, you need to check this out for the following reasons:

1. Young athletes are often too embarrassed to tell their parents they’re being bullied.

2. If your kids are not targets now, it’s likely they will be sometime in the future.

3. We want to enlist all sports parents and coaches to help us fight the bullying epidemic in sports — an epidemic that hurts kids’ confidence and often causes them to drop out.

(This aside from Dennis…  Actually, from my many years in coaching, I absolutely KNOW point number one above is true!)

This new anti-bullying program is on sale today:

Click here to discover more!

Here’s the best part… You can download the ENTIRE program immediately after purchase (you don’t pay a dime for shipping and handling fees)!

So, make sure you secure a copy of the anti-bullying program right now. The cost could increase at any time:

Click here to find out more!

*The owner(s) of this web site receive compensation when products and services featured herein are purchased.

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Hockey Focus (My Mite & Squirt School)

May 22, 2010

For those who have been receiving my free 6-part video series, “You Don’t Need Ice!” (about off-season training ideas), you may have noticed me mentioning about setting goals, but also reducing those to a very small number.  Anyway, just to show you that I practice what I preach, I thought I’d tell you a little about my coming summer hockey school for little guys…

Now, the first thing I usually do is really, really think about a given level I’ll be working with.  Hey, I’ll close my eyes and picture a game going on (if that’s what it takes), or I’ll cue-up some old video of players at that level.

What I’m looking for are a few things that truly matter at their level of play.  And notice that I’ve said “a few” there, not a kzillion.

And, why not a kzillion?  In all honesty, I find that spreading ourselves too thinly has very little impact.  Naw, REALLY changing just a few things — but quite a bit towards the positive — is going to make all the difference in the world for a player, and it’s likely to help him or her catch or pass an awful lot of others at that level.

Okay, so what areas have I chosen to isolate for my new Mite & Squirt program?  Well, it struck me (again, after lots and lots of thinking) that two areas of skating strength, increased puckhandling skills, and enhanced shooting strength are going to make the most difference in that age group’s play next fall.

All that said, does it mean I won’t work on some other skills?  God, not at all.  I’m going to have plenty of time with those youngsters, which means I can treat a lot of things.  What it does mean, however, is that I’m going to really stress those things I’ve deemed important, and I’m going to make absolutely sure they get worked on — in spades — at each training session.

Just as an aside here, I happen to believe that nearly all skills overlap.  Darn, though, let me try to explain that a little better…

Take for example, shooting.  Oh, I quite often have my players fire pucks (or balls) against the side boards while in a stationary posture.  (Actually, that allows them to get tons more shots than they’d normally get if they took turns from a line; and it also gives them the chance to enhance muscle memory from the repetitive nature of that kind of drilling.)  Still, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that skaters with poor balance don’t get very many shots in game action.  So, if I help enhance the kids’ skating with other drills, I’ll also be aiding their shooting abilities.

Going further with this concept — of certain skills depending on others, I share with you my Building Blocks view of offensive skills…

Basically, what my sketch suggests is that success in an uppermost ability is dependent upon a player’s mastering the skills below it.  For example, in the case of passing, firm sweeping and spinning of the puck — from either side of the stick-blade — stems from solid puckhandling skills; the ability to receive a pass relies upon controlled skating through a high percentage route, and then collecting the puck with the “soft hands” that surely come from puckhandling proficiency.

Once again, though — despite the fact that my young Mites and Squirts will work on a myriad of skills, there will be the aforementioned focus on three main areas of their game.

With that, let’s consider the changes I see happening with most of those youngsters this summer…

Picture, if you can, the benefit of them being stronger in their forward stride.  The fact that they’ll ultimately be able to thrust harder will shoot them ahead all the further (and faster) with each stride.  Then, picture how that is going to help them in a footrace with other players when they return to their home teams this fall.

When it comes to puck skills, I like to say that, “I develop puckhandling mentalities.”  I could explain that better if it only had to do with the drills I have my kids perform (and I DO use specific drills towards that aim).  However, I’m able to perform my little miracle transformations probably more due to the way I interact with students, the way I prod them, and the way I encourage them to “go nuts” and be creative with the puck.

As for the shooting…  As much as I believe in the value of all the other skills, there’s nothing like a youngster rifling a shot into the strings to boost his or her confidence.  Let me go one further with that…  Can you imagine a youngster potting some goals early-on, and having that excite him or her enough to really love the game, and to want to really work on all the game’s other skills?  You can take my word on that, because I’ve seen it happen a hundred times or more.

Lastly, since most of my readers (and CoachChic.com members) live too far away to look into the above described program, I’ve really mentioned all this so that you might copy what I’ve done.  In other words, see if you can visualize just one or two qualities that when improved upon would make a huge difference in a player’s overall game.  Get working on them pretty soon, and you’ll be glad you did this fall.  (And, although I primarily work with skaters, the exact same approach can be taken for the sake of a goaltender.)

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If you’re a coach and doing some studying over these off-season months, I can recommend a couple of truly great books (or ones I’ve found to be a huge help to me).

<= Click on the book to the left to go to that section, or you can go to the CoachChic.com Store to explore some other truly hard-to-find hockey help.

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Well, that’s it for tonight.  It is, at least for the time being, a good night here in the Boston-area, too.  At the moment, Red Sox pitcher, DiceK, has a no-hitter going into the 8th inning, and the Celtics are trouncing the Magic at halftime.  (And, no, I’m not just a hockey guy.  🙂 )

A Little (Hockey) This ‘n That

May 14, 2010

As has become the custom lately, I like to — about once per week — collect a bunch of unrelated subjects and put them together under what I refer to as “Short Shifts”.  So, here goes…

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Okay, to borrow from what some pundits are already labeling “The Bruins’ Meltdown”, I surely have some feelings of my own.  (Hey, have you ever known me NOT to have an opinion?)

To begin, a lot of fans will surely be calling for the coach’s scalp (although there isn’t much hair there to grab).  My Twitter friend, Mark Marino, an accomplished writer (see his blog, The Hub of Hockey), is one of them.  And, while he surely knows his stuff, I just couldn’t agree with Mark when he suggested tonight that, “Julien choked once again and didn’t get his team ready..”

Hmmmm…  In hockey circles there’s an old saying that suggests something like, “The coach can’t turn chicken !%#%! into chicken salad.”  Hey, all a guy (or gal) can do is dance with the ones he brung (or play the guys he has).  Come to think of it, we coaches can even get pretty philosophical about that last point, some of us even posting the following sign near our desks:

Don’t complain about your players;
They’re the only ones you have!

Actually, I’m guessing that Mark isn’t the only one in Bruins Nation to be suggesting the coach didn’t get his team ready.  But, I beg to differ…  I mean, the B’s came out of the gate absolutely flying, and they almost blew the doors off their orange clad opponents over the first 20-minutes.  So, were Julien’s players “ready”?  I think so, probably above and beyond.

And that brings me to a little theory I have (or maybe it’s a couple of theories that tend to work together)…

First, emotions only carry one so far, and for so long.  So, at some point — like maybe at the start of the second period(?), pure emotions don’t work anymore, and talent starts to take-over.

As an aside here, I have been attending (and sometimes lecturing at) high level coaching symposiums all over North America.  And, in my 40-ish years, I’ve seen quite a swing in the approach coaches take, especially when it comes to getting their players ready for competition.  Of course, it should make sense what the current thinking is, in that it’s better to help players avoid highs and lows, instead aiming to keep them on the proverbial even keel.

That said, can you imagine what happens once a player — or group of players — comes down from a high?  As a matter of fact, might we be able to liken that to what seemed to happen to the B’s tonight (and in several other playoff games)?  I mean, they busted quickly out of the chute, and then just as quickly plummeted.  (The way I described it to my grandson was, “The Bruins suddenly looked like they were skating in mud!”)

And that latter observation — the one I offered to my grandson — brings me to the second theory…

Can we presume that both teams are in pretty good playing shape at this stage in their season?  (This, with all due respect for injuries we probably don’t even know about.)  Secondly, can we also presume that both teams are pushing the envelop — or pushing themselves just as hard as they possibly can?  In fact, teams at this stage in their season will push each other — speed-wise, just to see if they can cause the other team to wilt.

Okay, so if you’ll agree with what I’m saying here — that both teams have conditioned themselves as well as possible, and that both teams are pushing themselves and their opponents right from the first drop of the puck, what could possibly cause one team to do pretty well early-on, and then suddenly look as if they’ve run out of gas?  Hmmmmm…

Simply, I could probably just say that, “Talent will ultimately win-out.”  Ya, I could say that.  However, I’m going to risk going a little deeper into that, especially due to hockey’s uniqueness…

You see, the more natural the skating movement is to a given player, the less energy he expends.  Make sense?  On the other hand, while all NHL-ers are obviously capable skaters, not all of them are really smooth or really efficient in their movements.  Said yet another way, my guess is that a lot of the Philly players still had plenty of gas in their tanks as the third period came along, while a number of Boston players were running on near-empty.

Oh, by the way…  If my theory is true, I think readers would find it interesting that a player’s fine motor skills are the first things to go as he tires.  And, as this relates to hockey, I’ll suggest that a player’s eyesight, shooting accuracy and puckhandling are among the very first things to abandon him.

So, considering what we Boston fans witnessed tonight (or over several nights), does it make sense that a lot of lesser skilled Bruins players were struggling in comparison to their (more skilled) opponents?  And, might what I’ve suggested to this point explain a lot of the late-game missed shots, muffed pucks, and missed passes?  Hmmmmm…

All that said, none of the above has anything to do with heart.  In fact, while the NHL’s regular season tends to bore me, I really came to like a lot of the B’s players  as the playoffs went along.  Ya, it seemed to me that there was enough heart — or guts — to go around in that dressingroom.  I also think the coach and a very talented young goaltender deserve some credit for giving their team a chance to win.  A coach doesn’t select players, ya know, nor does he formulate the team’s budget.  Naw, to my way of thinking, the culprits in Boston are most likely sitting high above (or at home counting their money).

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I just love it when I tall young guy approaches me at a local rink and introduces himself as one of my former players or one of my former students.  Man, I really do love that.  And so do I love the occasional email I get whereby a young fella writes that he also played for me or attended one of my long ago hockey schools.

Anyway, I couldn’t have gotten a bigger kick out retrieving a message from my office phone, this one from a young guy who had attended my camps as a goaltender a really long time ago.  And, not only did I remember him well, but I could also envision the bright faces of his mom and dad as they frequently sat at rinkside.

When we were finally able to connect, young Jim McNiff explained that he was actually into coaching nowadays, and that he’d also invested in an interesting hockey related venture — Fresh Sports Gear.  But, to give you a quick idea about Jim’s business, here’s an excerpt from his website:

Fresh Sports Gear is a locally owned company developed by Jim McNiff.  We provide a cleaning service which utilizes a process known as “Ozone Technology” in our C40 Machines for your Sports Gear.

As a life long devotee to Ice Hockey, specifically as a Goaltender, I have had my share of dirty Hockey Gear and tried many methods to “dry it all out” hoping to reduce the odor developed by harmful bacteria transferred from my body to the equipment as I played the game.  However, as anyone who plays a sport knows, this method may dry the gear, but does not clean it, nor reduce the odor.  I developed this company to offer an effective method to clean your gear, while implementing an environmentally safe way to reduce exposure to harmful bacteria and germs infesting your gear each time you put it on.  In addition to protecting your health, the goal of Fresh Sports Gear to also protect your investment in the gear and prolong the life the gear beyond its natural potential.

Jim McNiff is located in Marlboro, MA, and he offers to pick-up and deliver to most Massachusetts sites.  (As an aside from his old coach, I’m thinking Jim’s service would be a great one for local pro shops to offer.)

Finally, Jim’s email address and telephone number are available on his website’s front page.  So, you might touch base with him if you’re in need of his services.  He’s a personable young guy, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy dealing with him…  Fresh Sports Gear

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If you’ve been receiving my FREE Video Series “You Don’t Need Ice!”, and especially if you received the very last installment, you may have been introduced to an awesome gadget that is guaranteed to improve skating mechanics.  I’ve been using that device with my NEHI players for a number of years, and Anthony Chic has used it a lot at home during his off-season months.  Anyway, I couldn’t say too much about it as the video series was put together, mainly because final arrangements weren’t yet set to bring them to you.  However, everything is now ready, and I hope to post all the information in the CoachChic.com Store within a few days of this writing.  (Hmmmmm…  Did I mention earlier about the benefits of having an energy efficient skating motion?  Man, I promise this inexpensive, easy to use piece of gear will do the trick!)

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Finally, on a whim, I took a stab at a program my friends at the Mental Edge are offering.  It’s aimed at helping anyone — athlete to business type — to change or overcome one key area of his or her life.  They’ve dubbed it the 21 Day Challenge.  I’m about 5-days in the program, and I’m already experiencing some huge benefits, and a few of my Twitter and Facebook friends are reporting the same results.  So, take a look, and maybe give it a try.  Believe it or not, the program is absolutely free!

Where Ya Been, Coach? (Busy, Busy, Busy…)

May 11, 2010

A funny thing…  For some reason I sense that folks notice when I’m missing for a day or two (or three or four).  I’m sure some of my Twitter or Facebook friends worry about my health, or about my over-working myself (while a few may suspect I’ve died of old age — grrrrrrrr…).  All is well in Coach Chic’s little corner of the world, though; I’ve just been super-busy working on some projects that have required total focus.

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Prioritizing has been a major problem for me in recent weeks (if not for longer).  Part of the problem is that — as hockey seasons change, a rush of new projects become due.  In other words, as the past hockey season came to a close, I suddenly needed to ready for my spring and summer programs, plus make sure that I don’t in any way neglect my obligations to CoachChic.com members.  Oh, understand that I love all of what I’m into; the problem is in finding the time to do justice to everything.

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As for those projects, I sense my hockey friends (as well as some others) might find it interesting what goes into such things.  Ya, I know, you might think I just arrive at some distant ice rink and all just goes like clockwork.  Ha…

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First on the horizon is the start of my HS Prep program.

This, if you don’t yet know, is a 7-month long program aimed at readying some of the area’s top high school players for their brief winter season at their respective schools.  In other words, 17 players come to me from all around the area, they’ll train with me from late May until Thanksgiving, and then they hopefully head-off to their own high schools being smarter, faster, stronger, better skilled, tougher, and in far better condition than their wintertime teammates.  (Well, at least they will be, IF they listen to the old coach and pay their dues over the coming months.)

For a lot of reasons, we’ll begin our training in my little off-ice facility, The MOTION Lab.  (<= If you don’t know about that place, the link will bring you to a video that takes you on a brief tour.)  The primary aim during this time of the season is to lay the groundwork for all we’ll be doing over the coming months.  I mean, we’ll start working on the skating stride — and proper muscle memory, and we’ll start slowly honing some of the skills that will be taken to more intense levels down the road.

My guys will all be asked to bring their own jump ropes to every team function from here onward.  Yup, I’m into building athletes — first and foremost, and rope skipping is just one step in that direction.

My players also need to become pretty good at some gymnastics movements, including tumbling.

Their skating motions (and proper muscle memory) will be enhanced through use of slide boards and two other gadgets non-NEHI-ers probably wouldn’t know about.  One of those is my own invention, the Skater’s Rhythm-bar, this aimed at giving the guys rhythm in their movements.  The other gadget has just been hinted at in an installment of “You Don’t Need Ice!” (<= and you can gain access to that FREE video series by clicking on that link).  I promise I will let you know about that unbelievable training device as soon as it’s ready to be released.

Then, we’ll also work just briefly with our agility ladders and on some introductory sprint exercises, because those skills are going to take center stage in the next phase of our training.

Yes, the next phase of our training…  For, as our workouts in the Lab wind down, we’ll head outdoors for weekly sprint training and agility work.  In a way, we’re taking what we began in the Lab and we’re really getting into it.

Rope skipping makes  for a nice dynamic warm-up in these outdoor sessions, not to mention a continuation of the kids’ work at athleticism.  But we’ll ultimately take that skill to new levels, gradually having the kids perform new tricks with their ropes.  They’ll even ultimately form groups of threes, with two players twirling a long rope as a guy in the middle attempts to dribble a puck or ball.  And, while some readers might be wondering if this is even do-able, let me tell you that my best players will eventually be able to dribble a ball in the air without missing a single swing of the rope.  Aaaaah, you ought to see ’em.  🙂

As for our work with ladders, understand that all elite level athletes now use them — from high level football players to soccer players to basketball-ers to hockey players.  Why?  Because it’s scientifically proven that such skills transfer right to an athlete’s primary sport.  Yes, those who can negotiate the ladder quickly will also demonstrate quick footwork on the ice.

And so is it scientifically proven that sprint training WILL increase a skater’s on-ice speed.  It’s a fact:  the faster one can run, the faster he or she can skate.

Oh, I have some nice mats in the Lab, but I don’t take them out to the dusty sprint training area.  Naw, as I explain in the “You Don’t Need Ice!” series, I instead use cut-up carpet padding so that my guys can continue their athletic workouts outdoors.

Actually, our different phases of spring and summer training overlap a little, with the sprint and agility sessions often starting before our Lab workouts end.  And, such is the case with our in-line practices kicking-in before the outdoor sessions wind down.

Aaaaah, there are just so many reasons why I especially love the workouts held at a local roller rink…  First, that floor can double as both an in-line rink and a gym.

Once again, our jump ropes are always somehow used — with or without wheels.  So are the tumbling mats, although the floor gives us the chance to combine all sorts of stickhandling movements with rolls of all types.

It should make sense that we’ll also continue our agility ladder workouts and at least a little sprint training indoors.

As for putting on the wheels…  This is the time and place where we can tie together the striding exercises learned in the Lab, and I can also use this atmosphere to slowly introduce any new skating, puckhandling, passing, shooting and X’s and O’s ideas that I’ll later want the guys to be able to do on the ice.

Yes, then to the ice…  As in other phases, we usually have a little overlap between the final in-line practices and our weekly on-ice skills sessions.  And, I do mean “skills sessions”.

Sure, we’ll do some team oriented things during those practices.  However, almost all of our off-season efforts are aimed at greatly enhancing the kids’ individual skills, athleticism and other physical traits.

Carrying the latter a bit further, let me suggest that our future breakouts, forecheck, attacking plays, penalty killing and powerplays are going to be FAR more effective if my players are more athletic, better skilled, faster, more agile, stronger, and so on.

Still, let me carry that last point even further…  You might find it interesting that winning our fall league is not a priority for me.  Sure, the parents like it, and it sure goes a long ways towards boosting my guys’ confidence.  (Actually, we always do well in that league, and we’ve won it the past two seasons.)  At the same time, I must keep my eyes on the REAL objective here, that being to send my kids off to their high schools far better than when they arrived to me.

Then, I forgot to mention…  We do have an end-of-summer “camp” to pull our “team” together.  This consists of three days at the roller facility where we can slowly walk-through plays.  Most of the talking and explaining out of the way, we finish the week (and the summer) putting it all together with two days on the ice.

So, why has the old coach been missing from other activities lately?  It’s because it’s an awesome task dealing between the ice rink and the in-line facility, and then finally putting it all together.

Then, these final notes…

We still need one more goaltender and one more defenseman, with Info Available Here.

Among my other current projects is some very similar type work (as I’m doing for my HS Prep guys) for my young Bandits Mite AAA Major team (this to be better explained here shortly), a summer program I’ve put together for Mites & Squirts (also soon to be announced), and a special 11-month long program for junior high school aged kids who want to ultimately play on my HS Prep team.

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Okay, so now you know where the old coach has been for awhile.  Now, leave me alone!  🙂